The Melbourne Rules : An Esoteric History compiled by Brian Membrey


Our two earliest draft picks are almost total unknowns despite all the previous research that has gone into the Irish stew.

Perhaps if gold had not been discovered in Victoria in the early 1850s, two totally different men may have gone into history as the founders of the Australian game. Both men were instrumental in promoting the first reliably reported game of football - that played behind what is now the Crown Casino Hotel in 1850 as part of the celebrations of Victorian’s Separation from New South Wales and the establishment of rights of an independent colony.

Dalmahoy Campbell

Dalmahoy or Dal. Campbell was born on the Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland in 1811.

His parents migrated to Australia about twelve years after his birth, meaning he was educated in both Britain and Australia

Campbell was the driving force behind major sporting events held in 1850 and again in 1851, the Melbourne Gymnastic Games.

Both of these Games featured football as events with prize money allocated, and, if nothing else, they provided both advance notice and a continuity of matches for which players could prepare.

The football from the first Games was cancelled for reasons unknown and replaced by a simple kicking competition, but Campbell and his rival captain in the abandoned game, Frank Stephen, re-organized the match a fortnight late, strongly indicating that they were keen to see football of whatever hybrid code it was at the time established on a regular basis

Campbell and Stephen were part of the organizers for the second games in 1851, again with football as part of the advertised program and Campbell captaining one of the sides.

He was a prominent stock and estate agent, and a member (described as “conservative-pastoral”) of the first Council following the declaration of Melbourne as a city.   

In his role as a stock agent, Campbell was known as an expert judge of fat cattle and also as a connoisseur taster of whisky.

Campbell was prominent in the formation of the Australasian League, the first movement to pressure the British Government for the abolition of the transportation of criminals to the colonies.

In the first games, Campbell was narrowly defeated in the 22 lb. Shot Put, but had his revenge the following year and donated the £5 prize back for a footrace on the second day.

He also finished second in the Tossing of the Hammer:

“At the second throw, Mr. D. Campbell let the hammer slip through his fingers and fell flat on his back, where he was lifted from the ground by four strapping fellows and carried off amidst the loud cheering of the spectators.”

The cheering was probably all the louder the following year when it was reported Campbell had donated a barrel of porter for the refreshment of the spectators.

By 1860, when a unique Australian code had developed, a few suburban teams were starting to appear and one of the earliest was Collingwood, captained by none other than Dal. Campbell.

After a year or two with Collingwood, Campbell vanishes from sight, possibly because of all his other interests and commitments.   

Suddenly in 1865, he re-appeared playing for Melbourne in a couple of challenge matches for the Athletic Sports Committee Cup.   

Campbell played in challenge matches again the following year, and despite being 45 years of age, was prominent enough to be named in the northern half of the “North v. South” representative match.   

He was also regarded as the best handball player in the colony.   

Campbell died at his home in Vaucluse, Richmond, on 29 April, 1875, aged 63 years of age.

The Collingwood Leader on 1 May in an obituary suggested that Campbell at one stage had owned twelve acres in Richmond, but despite what seems to have been an eventful and colorful life, had "sustained most of the reverses incidental to colonial experience … it is to us perplexing that many old colonists die in reduced circumstances - not actually poor, but less wealthy than may be expected".

"… these gardens had rather a sinister reputation as a haunt of footpads, and there were many stories of disagreeable adventure connected with them. One, 1 especially remember, was that in which Mr. Dalmahoy Campbell, the wellknown stock and station agent, figured. He was a heavily built man, and was justly regarded as one of the most powerful men in the colony."

"On this particular occasion, he was riding along quietly when he was set upon by three men. One seized the bridle and the others each caught hold of one of his legs, and tried to pull him off his horse. But, before they had time to do so, he gave the man holding the bridle such a blow with his hunting crop that he fell to the ground, stunned. Campbell then leant over, seized one of the others by the scruff of the neck and slung him across the front of the saddle. By this time, the third man was so frightened that he hurriedly made off! Campbell calmly continued his way till he reached the police station, where he gave his prisoner in charge.

The Story of an Athlete", H.A.C. Harrison

In considering Dalmahoy Campbell's contributions to the game, it is as well to note a similar name prominent in Melbourne's early sporting life, Daniel Samuel Campbell.

Usually known as "D. S", Daniel was one of Melbourne's earliest cricketers, having played for a "Married" team of Melbourne Cricket Club members against the "Singles" XI in 1837, one of the earliest noted intra-club matches.

He was elected to the first formal committee of the M.C.C. in 1841, and served as club president from 1855 to 1859, the years that saw the formation of the Melbourne Football Club.

Daniel Campbell was one of Melbourne's earliest wine merchants, establishing a store in Elizabeth Street, and was also prominent in the affairs of several of the early charitable institutions of Melbourne.

The Gymnasts : Dalmahoy Campbell